Costs Slow Ontario, Calif., Airport Upgrades

Dec. 12--ONTARIO -- Construction snags have delayed a $14 million security upgrade planned for Ontario International Airport.

A new perimeter fence and other security enhancements have been on the table at ONT since 2002, when Los Angeles World Airports the agency that operates the airport received a $4.5 million federal grant for the project.

A second grant for $3 million was added in 2003, and the Board of Airport Commissioners approved final plans for the project two years later.

But differences over what the work will cost have kept any construction from beginning.

"There are higher construction costs than we had anticipated," said Mark Massman, LAWA's deputy executive director of project and facilities development. "The estimate we were comparing it to was out of date."

LAWA received two construction bids in July, both of which estimated the project could cost roughly $14 million $6 million higher than what the agency had initially expected.

The project includes the replacement of 8 miles of fencing around the airport. The existing fence is chain-link, and LAWA officials want higher security.

"Some of the fences in some areas have architectural features, like the fences between the terminals, which look nicer," Massman said. "In some areas, where we worry about vehicles, we'll be putting in fences that have a concrete base to them."

Additionally, the project calls for new security facilities at vehicle entrances to the air field and a new 20-foot wide perimeter roadway for security patrols.

The report to the Board of Airport Commissioners states that the security improvements are necessary to meet requirements set by the Transportation Security Administration. But Massman said that wasn't the case.

Nico Melendez of the TSA said there's no requirement for ONT to improve its perimeter fence.

"Perimeter fencing and perimeter security (at ONT) meets the minimum required TSA standards," Melendez said. "The airport is going beyond those minimum requirements."

Federal standards for airport and passenger security increased after the terrorist attacks in 2001. Beginning next week, security screeners will allow more small items such as scissors and screwdrivers in travelers' carry-on baggage.

There was no current timeline for the project's completion. Massman said LAWA staff will make a recommendation at the next board meeting on whether to put the project out to bid again, or to accept the lower of the two bids that already came in.